Book Plunge: Born This Way?

What do I think of J. Alan Branch’s book published by Weaver Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you debate any with people and homosexuality is brought up, you will find people saying that they are “born this way.” In the movie Religulous, Bill Maher interviews someone who is a Christian saying that there is no gay gene. In the middle, we get a cut to a scene of Maher asking Dean Hamer, “Have you found a gay gene?” “Yes.” That’s it. No context. Nothing more. It was settled.

Are homosexuals really born this way? J. Alan Branch takes us on a tour of psychology and science to see what can be found out. He starts off with looking at the minds that have fundamentally shaped the debate for us all. The first starting place is Freud and seeing what he said, which wasn’t really as much as one would think.

We get a lot more when we get to Kinsey. Today, Kinsey is seen as one of the greatest authorities, but in reality, his work was significantly flawed. In fact, it was so flawed that one could even see it got information from those who had to be guilty of child molestation. Kinsey accepted information from volunteers, interviewed people in prison, and other such problems. Kinsey himself was quite clear about his goals in doing away with Christian morality.

Finally, what happened with psychology and psychiatry in the 70’s? The truth is, not a lot of science but a whole lot of politics. This cleared the way for normalization and then for opposition. The movement already had an agenda in mind with the publication of After The Ball which they played perfectly.

From there, we move on to the possible scientific explanations for someone being born homosexual. This area is often dense in scientific thought so it can be hard to understand. That could be the unavoidable nature of the beast. Still, Branch is conversant with the literature and knows what those arguing the position are talking about.

One area he looks at that many people will be pleased to see is about animals. He does say that animals do sometimes engage in homosexual acts, but this is not a new discovery. Our ancestors knew about this long ago and the only reason it’s a shock to so many today is that we are far more cut off from nature. Branch points out that if we went by this, then we should also justify people eating their children since animals often devour their young in the wild.

After looking at all manner of studies, Branch then takes on a more pastoral position. How are we to help people in the church who legitimately struggle with same-sex attraction? They are indeed there. We don’t need to think they’re lying. We don’t need to treat them like a disease. One great way is that men need men who are friends with them and can say they love them, but not have it be sexual. Likewise, women need similar with women.

Branch concludes that homosexuality is likely caused by a multiplicity of factors and no one factor can settle the deal. This is also a predisposition to behave a certain way. It does not necessitate that one act on that impulse. One can choose to be celibate or one can choose to marry someone of the opposite sex and form a loving relationship with them.

Christians wanting to understand the debate will want to read this book. Branch is thorough and at the same time, more brief than you would think as the book has just a little over 150 pages of content. It will be a helpful addition to anyone’s library who cares about this issue.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/10/2016: William Webb

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those curious about the past two weeks, we recorded Holly Ordway fine except for the last twenty-five minutes or so. We’re going to redo those and then have the whole be released together. After that, I will put up my discussion at the Apologetics Academy. Now let’s go to this week.

We all want to do what the Bible says to do. Right? Yep. Those commands last. Why, we never go to church outings where pepperoni pizza or shrimp is served. Oh wait. We do. That’s odd. When we go to church, we have someone there to wash our feet as our Lord said should be done and…..no wait. We normally don’t. Well we at least greet one another with a holy kiss. (Okay. To be fair, I do that one with my wife and then ask immediately if I greeted her already or not.)

How is it we want to do what the Bible says when so often we don’t seem to do what it says? My guest this week has written on that and he’s used three case examples to make his point. Those examples are what the Bible says about slaves, women, and homosexuals. Hence, the book title is Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. Who is he? His name is Dr. William Webb.

william-webb

He got his B.A. from Providence College in 1980, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary in 85, and a Ph.D. from there in 90. His further bio says that:

Dr. Bill Webb is married (Marilyn) with three grown children (Jonathan, Christine, and Joel) and a dog (Muffin). Education: Ph.D. Dallas Theological Seminary. Teaching: Professor of New Testament for 20 years (Heritage); Adjunct professor primarily at Tyndale Seminary and occasionally at ACTS and Acadia. Bill has worked as a pastor, chaplain, and professor over a span of twenty some years. In addition to conference speaking ministry, he has published several articles and books, includingReturning Home (Sheffield Press, 1993), Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals (InterVarsity, 2001),Discovering Biblical Equality (two chapters; InterVarsity, 2005), Four Views on Moving from the Bible to Theology (one view and responses; Zondervan, 2009), Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts (InterVarsity, 2011), Bloody, Brutal and Barbaric: War Texts that Trouble the Soul (forthcoming), and Getting Revelation Wrong: Rethinking End of the World Scenarios (forthcoming).

We’re going to be talking about the above problems and asking if we’re being obedient to the text or not and how could we tell. What does the case study of slaves, women, and homosexuals mean for us. After all, it’s quite easily agreed that slavery is wrong today, and even those of us who are very complementarian like myself don’t agree with much of the older views on women. Some people are more in agreement with homosexual practice, but for the most part I think the Christian church disagrees with it, and I am certainly in that number. How do we approach these and other issues?

Be sure to join us this Saturday and be sure to leave a review on ITunes for the show. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast: Tom Gilson

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This one doesn’t have a date to it because due to a scheduling conflict, we had to reschedule this for today. When the interview is done, I hope to start work on it soon and get it up as soon as I can. Hopefully today, but I can’t make any promises. So what are we talking about?

Parents have always dreaded having “the talk” with their children. Which parent is going to be the one to sit down and talk about the birds and the bees? Will it be both parents? When is the proper time to do this? How do you explain the moral aspects of this?

It was hard enough in the past. Today, it is even harder. Now we live in a world where homosexuality is being put in front of us every day and too many young people are running around with soundbites that they’ve heard but have never really for the most part thought about. Young people wanting to be socially acceptable have a scarlet letter on them where they are seen as intolerant or bigots because they hold to a Biblical view of sexuality.

How can any parent possibly talk to their children about this? What are they to say? Do most parents themselves even have the answers to the questions? To discuss this topic, I’m having my friend Tom Gilson come on. Who is he?

TomGilson

And according to his bio he is

B. Mus. in Music Education and Trombone Performance, Michigan State University, 1979
M.S. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, University of Central Florida, 1998
Certificate (30 graduate hours), Campus Crusade for Christ Institute for Biblical Studies
 – plus a smattering of courses from Denver Seminary and Talbot Seminary
Lead editor, True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, Kregel, 2013
Author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality With Teens, Kregel, 2015
Over 150 published articles including work published at Touchstone, Salvo, and Discipleship Journal
Blogging at Thinking Christian since 2004.
34 years with Campus Crusade/Cru
2 years with BreakPoint
2 years in senior national leadership with Ratio Christi
Currently Senior Editor and Ministry Coordinator specializing in apologetics and inspiration with The Stream (stream.org)
Tom writes this book not only with the head of an apologist, but the heart of a pastor. If you are unfamiliar with apologetics, you will still be able to make it through this book. He also has responses to internet soundbites which is something that we really need. Our young people today are not really having to answer arguments so much as they are having to answer slogans.
This is an important show for you to listen to but remember, if you happen to listen and there are possibly younger listeners around, you might want to listen to this one when it’s more private depending on when you plan to talk to your children. If they’re ready, Tom’s book will be one that is incredibly helpful. It is a fine one for you and your teenager to go through together.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Orlando

What do I think about the recent massacre? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I do not watch much news, so I was surprised when I kept getting Facebook notices yesterday about people marking themselves safe in Orlando. As I checked, I found out about a shooting that had taken place. In a massacre that had taken place in a homosexual night club, around 50 people were left dead. Many of us were quite horrified. Now I will say I am not one strong in empathy. My wife is that one. Still, I know that something is wrong.

It’s interesting to see the responses taking place. The shooter was someone who swore allegiance to ISIS. Still, despite this being a Muslim who swore allegiance to a terrorist group, it is amazing that Christianity is still getting the blame. We are getting the blame because we have enabled something like this supposedly with “anti-LGBT” laws.

Islam doesn’t need our help. Islam already has a number of pronouncements against homosexuality on its own. I think instead this leaves a lot of moderns in a state of confusion. On the one hand, they want to say Islam is a religion of peace. On the other hand, they want to condemn anything that they think goes against homosexuality. Here in America, we who are Christians disagree with your lifestyle and say we don’t want to see the government endorsing it. In Muslim countries, they will drop walls on you. Try to go to these Muslim countries and have a gay parade and see what happens.

Also, passing laws against behaviors does not equal a hatred towards the people. We disagree with a behavior. It does not mean in any way we hate the person for we can often disagree with our own behavior. We all do things we know that we shouldn’t. Part of the freedom in our American society is the freedom to disagree, but so few people disagree and discuss the issue any more. They instead discuss the persons who hold to the opinion.

I found it interesting to hear of people who were saying that this is why they left the church and Christianity. Again, this was still a Muslim loyal to ISIS who did this, but somehow it got back to the church. Unfortunately, people quote Leviticus in an incorrect way. Now I think there’s a powerful argument to be made that the holiness code of Leviticus 18 and 20 can still apply in large part, but that gets into a lot of reading of Scripture and hermeneutics that can be difficult. It’s an argument that we can make, but perhaps there is a better way.

After all, this assumes that no one would have any problem with homosexuality were it not for the Bible. This is just false. Even long before Christ it was seen as wrong to accuse someone of taking part in a homosexual relationship. In many cases, it was a man allowing himself to be treated as a woman which was seen as shameful. In the Greco-Roman world, there were mixed opinions, except on lesbianism. Most everyone condemned lesbianism. These condemnations were from people who were not following the Bible at all.

In fact, a common practice of the day was pederasty. This was a sexual relationship between a grown man and a young boy until the boy came of age. The man was not necessarily homosexual as he could have a wife as well, but this was seen as normal and according to nature in many ways. Today, most of us would look at something like the North American Man-Boy Love Association and condemn it. It would be considered as pedophilia today. (Although give it a few years and we’ll see what happens with pedophilia in the world) This was for the most part accepted and today, we would not share that opinion.

You can remove the Bible and still have a case against homosexual practice just like some of the ancient Greeks did. Unfortunately, too many growing up and leaving the church never consider the case against homosexual behavior. They just have a stance they don’t question and then say “Well if the Bible is against that, then it must be wrong.” (Unfortunately, this ties in with inerrancy as well as it is thought that if the Bible is wrong in this, can we take it seriously on anything else?) Of course, I don’t think the Bible is wrong, but the debate is not about the Bible even. It is about a practice.

If there is one thing that I found sad about it, it was in telling Allie last night that so many Christians were saying we are against the violence that took place. Now why would that be sad? Is it because I am in favor of the violence. No! Not at all! This was a wicked and evil act! What was sad is that we think we need to say it. It’s as if we are in a position where unless we come out and say we condemn the violence, that the world will look and think that we automatically support it. Is it a fault with how we are living Christianity or a fault of how we are explaining Christianity or both?

To go political, I also see that Obama made a statement. I have done a search of this statement. Nowhere in it is ISIS or Islam mentioned. I find it sad that our president is willing to speak out against people who are not wanting to allow transgenders to use the opposite bathroom, but when a shooting like this takes place, he cannot speak out against ISIS at all. ISIS is responsible for this. Why are we so hesitant to name the enemy?

It’s also easy to blame the guns. I happen to support the second amendment. Guns are not the problem but evil people with guns. I have no fear of a law-abiding citizen carrying a gun. It’s my contention that if you set up an area and declare it a “gun-free zone” you might as well put up a sign that says “Sitting ducks.” If an evil person wants to get a gun, they will get a gun. No law will stop them. If a law against murder is not stopping them, why would a law against guns?

No. The problem is we have lost our drive toward virtue and character. We live in a world where we seek the best for ourselves only and pleasure is the highest god. We don’t think seriously about being a good citizen. Most of us do not know how to engage in moral thinking. In fact, most of us don’t know how to engage in thinking. We talk so much about our feelings and we say so little about our thoughts. It has reached the point where if we feel it, then it must be true without really considering that our feelings could be wrong.

So in conclusion, what can be said? Yes. This was evil. I hate to have to say it because I shouldn’t need to, but we do condemn this. Some of you might use this as an excuse to avoid Christianity, but I urge you to look at the historical case for the resurrection instead and then decide. No. Changing gun laws will not make this less likely to happen. Finally, we need to name our enemy. ISIS is a threat and they are destroying societies in the Middle East and persecuting Christians and they can train people over here just as easily right under our noses.

The solution again is the same. It’s time for the church to be the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Critical Conversations

What do I think of Tom Gilson’s book published by Kregel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Parents have always tended to dread “the talk” and asked one another which one of them will be the ones to tell their children about the birds and the bees. As awkward as it has been in the past, today for Christian parents, it can be even more awkward. What was thought unthinkable in the past is now seen as the new normal. Christians for the most part know what the Bible says about homosexual practice and today, that leads to them being called bigots, haters, intolerant, etc.

What are Christian parents to do? It’s no longer enough in our day and age to just say “Well this is what the Bible says.” Something more is needed. That’s why I’m proud to support Tom Gilson’s book on the topic. Gilson writes a book that is intellectually rich but also with a pastoral heart. As you read it, it’s like Gilson is taking your hand and guiding you through the minefield and helping you see step by step how best to handle these conversations with your children.

Note I said conversations. The birds and the bees talk might be a one-time deal, but this is a prevalent issue that will likely involve more than one talk, especially as your teenager receives more challenges from classmates. Gilson is set to walk you through with a history of how we got here, what marriage means and why it matters, and how to handle challenges everywhere, even from a professor in a college classroom.

All that is well and good and you can find that information in many books, but if all you had was the final section, it would be worth the price of the book. In the final section Gilson takes a lot of the soundbite slogans that your child will encounter and works through how to answer them. He has an idea of a kind of conversation you can have all the while wanting you to make sure that it is not a script.

Most every slogan you can think of is addressed here. It’s as if Gilson sat at his computer writing every sound bite that came along and then decided to respond to all of them. It is a shame that we live in a soundbite culture where these kinds of statements have to be addressed, but unfortunately they do. Gilson does the job though. Your children will encounter taunts. They will be able to reply with substantial arguments.

If there’s something I would like to see in a future edition, I would like to see more of the positives of what we are defending. We as Christians have largely been seen as taking a negative side in the marriage debate. We need to make sure we present equally a very positive case. I would like to see more writing encouraging teenagers on the goodness of the male-female relationship and how it works in marriage, which would certainly include the grandeur and wonder of a sexual relationship, but also the way male and female can build themselves up to holiness in a life of joy. There is some of this when Gilson says every kiss with his wife is something big, but I would like to see more.

Still, this is a book I wish every Christian parent of teenagers would buy. Actually, change that. Every Christian who wants to know how to address homosexuality period whether you have teenagers or not should read this. You are coming across the soundbites just as much as they are. You too need this. Don’t avoid buying this book just because you don’t have teenagers. Buy it because you are a Christian in a world that needs the answers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: People To Be Loved

What do I think of Preston Sprinkle’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Preston Sprinkle has written a unique book on homosexuality where he says it’s not just an issue and frankly raises up a point that we often lose sight of. People are people. Whatever person you’re arguing against, they are a person. This is something both sides need to learn. Traditionalists like myself can often see just the issue and be tempted to think the worst about homosexuals that we meet, when in reality many homosexuals, like many heterosexuals, are wonderful people. Of course, just like heterosexuals, some are jerks. How you view your sexuality is not a determiner of your demeanor.

Meanwhile, those on the left need to realize that the homosexuals are persons as well. In what way do they often act otherwise? It’s too easy to assume that if someone is a homosexual, that that entails their identity so that if you say homosexual practice is wrong, you are treating the person as if they are not a person, and this is simply false.

Sprinkle wrote this book wanting us to see not just the issue but the person. He starts by talking about being on a plane and sharing with some people who ask what project he’s working on and he says it’s a book on homosexuality. The husband shakes his head saying there is no debate and the Bible is very clear. Sprinkle does want to say there is a huge debate in academia, but instead he asks where the Bible is clear. Unfortunately, the man has no idea where the Bible verses are that speak about homosexual practice.

Too many Christians could be like that today.

Sprinkle also does introduce with too many stories of homosexuals who have committed suicide and have been bullied for their being homosexual. Naturally, we should all condemn this sort of behavior. He also writes about those who leave the church. Interestingly, they don’t leave because they’re told same-sex behavior is wrong. They leave because of how they’re treated. The main walk away he wants you to get is that homosexuality is not about an abstract issue. It is about an issue that concerns people to be loved.

In this, many of Sprinkle’s stories hit hard. He does open this by a look at the Scriptures themselves. He comes down on the side of the traditionalists, who he describes as non-affirming. He also addresses many of the issues such as if someone is born with a sexual orientation and if change is possible of an orientation. He points out that too many of us have this idea that if you have to live your life without sex that it is absolutely unlivable.

Sprinkle also wants us to know that homosexuality does not define someone’s life. Still, while I agree that most homosexuals are fine people and there are other sins to focus on, I do think there are some people that while they are still people to be loved, there needs to be more on how to respond to them. Do some people get turned away from the church because there are many Christians who are aggressive and unloving to them? Yes. Of course. There are also homosexuals who are also aggressive and speak about their lifestyles.

What about situations such as the book After The Ball written as a coercive propaganda material to change the hearts and minds of Americans, which was a brilliant success by all standards. There are in fact people who want to be aggressive in their homosexuality and label us as intolerant bigoted homophobes if we disagree. Then there are issues many people have with the transgender talk today about men sharing bathrooms with women.

Do we love those people who are hurting and open to discussions? Of course. We are also to love the aggressive ones, but shouldn’t our approach be different? I did not really find Sprinkle’s book addressing how to deal with this. We could say Christians seem to always be talking about homosexuality, but that’s also because our culture is always talking about homosexuality. We are talking about what everyone is talking about and giving our viewpoints.

While few Christians will ever meet a leader in this movement, they are online and they will meet them and they will meet heterosexual supporters of the homosexual movement who are like them in their responses. There is a problem with Christians of course treating homosexuals horribly, but how are Christians to respond when homosexuals do likewise? While I know Sprinkle is for non-violence, as am I and I do not think this needs to be physical, I don’t think this means we just lie down and let homosexuals walk all over us.

Still, I have to say that Sprinkle’s book is a breath of fresh air. If I could recommend one book on the popular level, it would be this one. Sprinkle gives you good academic research and then he gives an excellent application. Sprinkle reminds us that every time we discuss homosexuality, we are also discussing homosexual persons. These are people to be loved. No. These are people who are loved by Jesus. The question is, are we going to love like Jesus did also? We do not affirm the sin, but we do love the person.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals

What do I think of William Webb’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us like to think of the Bible as the moral guidebook. Now to be sure, there are a lot of good moral lessons in the Bible. Hardly anyone would contend that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a bad idea, but there are some ideas that we just don’t do today. There are some matters explicitly commanded that we don’t do today. There are some commands that we think are even not good for us to do today. How do we differentiate?

William Webb’s book is an excellent reference on this looking at three issues as examples. First is slavery, which is pretty much agreed to that we do not practice. Next is women, and this is an area of some debate as there are complementarians and egalitarians. Finally there’s homosexuality as most evangelicals today still condemn homosexual practice, although that number is starting to change.

So what are we to do? Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but he also told us to wash one another’s feet. We are told in Exodus that we should not murder, but we are also told that we are to keep the Sabbath. Is this just random arbitrariness that is deciding what we do and do not follow?

Naturally, I can’t tell everything Webb says, but his book is a joy to read on this. Webb lays out eighteen different criteria on various themes. He also has what he calls a redemptive hermeneutic. This means that as the story of the Bible progresses, you start to see change. For instance, slavery (While never like Civil War slavery) was a staple at the time and could be called a necessary evil, much like God allowed divorce for the hardness of the peoples’ hearts. They weren’t ready for the advanced lessons yet. Still, even with slavery, the seeds of its destruction were planted early on.

One example is the case of the runaway slave. If a slave ran away from his master, he was supposed to be given safety. He was not to be returned to his master. As we go through the story of the Bible, we see this progressing further with more and more freedom until we get to a book like Philemon where it’s implied in a burning epistle (And yes, Paul is calling out Philemon incredibly in this epistle) that Philemon is to set Onesimus free.

How about women? Women do seem to get a low regard in the Old Testament where they can often be seen as property, but again, the change is right there. You have dynamic women like Deborah, Ruth, Rahab, Huldah, and Esther showing up in the text. When you move to the New Testament, you see more women like the witnesses to the empty tomb who first saw Jesus, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia, and others.

Now this is one part where I wasn’t as forward as Webb is. I am still more of a complementarian, but I think Webb would likely not have much of a problem with my own style since I think that if a man is the king of his castle, his wife gets treated like a queen.

Finally, you have homosexuals. In the Old Testament, the charges are pretty strict. Leviticus I think is a very clear statement. So is this changed in the New Testament? No. Paul in Romans 1 argues that homosexual practice is a shaming practice that is a horizontal example of what has already happened vertically.

What does this tell us? Some practices move forward redemptively and so we are justified in our lifestyles in moving along that route. The Bible has set the standard for us in itself. Some are more negative, so we ought not switch them because the Bible is consistent throughout with how it deals with them.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into a lot of detail, but this is a book that’s a joy to read to see how the author weaves his way through the texts and deals  with challenges to his position. There’s also a section at the end in humility where Webb answers “What if I’m wrong?” This mainly centers on issues involving 1 Tim. 2 and the section dealing with women there.

I think this book is an excellent read. There are issues on hermeneutics that are extremely necessary. If internet atheists would interact with a book like this, perhaps many of our debates could be better. Perhaps they could be even better still if more Christians interacted with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: God and the Gay Christian

What do I think of Matthew Vines’s book published by Convergent Books? Let’s Plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Matthew Vines has become somewhat of a celebrity in the church for being outspoken about being a homosexual and for making the case that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. His book is an autobiographical look at his life and how he reached his conclusion as well as a look at Scriptural texts that he thinks are relevant to the case. While many times there are those who dismiss the Bible, Vines does do us a favor right at the start by stating where he comes from. On page 1 he says

Like most theologically conservative Christians, I hold what is often called a “high view” of the Bible. That means I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life. While some parts of the Bible address cultural norms that do not directly apply to modern societies, all of Scripture is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV)

In this, Vines and I are quite likely to agree as I too hold a high view. What we will disagree with starkly will be our interpretations and as we go through, I wonder how much of this high view Vines has will be consistently upheld. What I also want to be on the watch for is to look and see if it more often happens that experience trumps Scripture.

One aspect I kept wondering about in the book was about the emphasis on homosexuality. Let’s suppose I instead wanted to write “God and the incestual Christian” or “God and the polygamous Christian.” Could I use many of the same arguments? I would wager that in many cases, I could. In fact, were I to argue for this, I could probably make a more convincing case. After all, Paul only condemns one kind of incestual relationship and someone like Abraham married his step-sister. Would Matthew Vines then be open to the possibility of loving and committed incestual relationships?

Vines goes into an autobiographical account early on of how he got here, which is fine for all intents and purposes, but something we must be watchful of. We do not want to get caught in the feeling of the story so much that we let it overpower our reason as we examine the case. Vines shows how he grew up in a conservative home and knew people in school who were gay and seemed normal enough. (What are we to expect? Gay people act totally different in every aspect of life?) He later on in college came to identify himself as a homosexual and then began a process of going through the Bible with that in mind to see what he could say to his parents who would be heartbroken.

Vines says in his book that one other reason he lost confidence in the idea that same-sex relationships were sinful is that it no longer made sense. Perhaps it didn’t, but if we go through and see that this is what the text says, then we are obligated to do it. Would I be justified in breaking the commandment to lust just because it no longer made sense to me? “Yes God. I understand why you don’t want me to sleep with other women than my wife, but hey, looking is natural. It doesn’t make sense to me why I can’t look.” He says the relationships he saw that were committed were characterized by faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice and what sin looks like that? Perhaps we could say incestuous relationships would look like that, so again we have to ask if Vines would support the book “God and the Incestuous Christian.”

One of the main passages Vines goes to repeatedly is to say that a tree is known by its fruit and says “Well the fruit of homosexual relationships that are committed is mutual love and self-sacrifice while condemning it leads to the suicide and bullying of many homosexuals.” No doubt, evangelicals across the board would condemn bullying homosexuals and we would agree that homosexual suicide is a tragedy, but are we not getting into the dangers of pragmatism and victimization? Would Vines for instance justify my robbing a bank if I give all the money to the local hospital? After all, look at all the good that came from my action! As for the suicide of homosexuals, could it not be that this is a result of how much sex is put on a huge pedestal in our society where sex is everything? Is this not part of what’s going on when you consider who you sleep with such a major part of your identity. How many times do we see characters in pop culture and such saying “I can’t die a virgin!” or something like that?

Suppose we had a group of men who were married but were depressed because they could not sleep with other women. This great desire came at them everyday and eventually a lot of them just broke and hung themselves rather than face the fact that they could not have polygamous relationships. Would Vines then be in support of looking again at polygamy? Would he be in support of men who hung themselves because they could not have sex with their mother or their sister?

The passage in Matthew 7 is in fact talking about prophets and not about outworkings of teachings. I take it that the message is that if someone is truly a prophet of God, their message will line up with Scripture. If my interpretation is correct, and I consider that much more likely, then if Vines fails in his case, then it is in fact him who is the one producing the bad fruit by encouraging us to hold to a wrong interpretation of Scripture. We should keep this in mind especially since I said earlier we can’t go by experience, an insight Vines agrees with since on page 24 he tells us that experience is subjective and prone to error as a judge of truth.

Vines tries to compare the case of homosexuality being okay to the case of the Earth going around the sun. The problem was that we can see quite simply how the text is being misread in those accounts. (He’s also wrong about the people thinking being at the center of the universe was a good thing. It wasn’t. God was seen as being on the outer circles.) Vines will have to have incredibly strong evidence to show that 2,000 years of church reading has been wrong.

Vines does still want us to think about our own experience with sexuality. Can we point to a specific moment where we chose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex? Well no. Can a person with depression point to a specific moment where they chose to be depressed? Can a person with PTSD point to a specific moment where they chose to have PTSD? I am one who once struggled with panic attacks and I can tell you there is no one specific moment where I chose to have panic attacks. It is part of this idea that if you did not choose to have something, then you were born with it. Why should I believe that? I do not think people would generally choose to be homosexual any more than they would to have PTSD or depression or panic attacks.

Let’s move on to Scriptural interpretations. Vines looks at Matthew 19 and says that only those who have the gift of celibacy should abstain from sexual unions. Vines says that Jesus or Paul never enjoined homosexuals to lifelong celibacy nor did they endorse redefining marriage. Of course not because there was no need to. Jesus stood behind a solid interpretation of the Old Testament and in fact at any point where it came to the morality of the Old Testament, Jesus raised the bar. You don’t murder? Good. How are you doing with hating your brother? You don’t commit adultery? Good. How are you doing at not looking at women to lust after them?

So in the end, it looks like Vines is saying that if homosexuals don’t have the gift of celibacy, then they should not stay celibate, and if they should not stay celibate, they should marry one another. How does such a view work? Are we to say that if Jesus met someone who burned with passion for his mother and did not think he had the gift of celibacy, that Jesus would okay him marrying his mother? Are we to think Paul would think someone who burned with passion for multiple women should in fact be okay with polygamous relationships? If the Corinthian church had written back and said that the man who was in an incestual relationship with his stepmother burned with passion and did not have the gift of celibacy then we would expect Paul would say “Well why didn’t you say so earlier? Sure. Let him have that relationship.”

Amazingly, Vines goes from here to 1 Timothy 4 and speaks of false teachers who will forbid marriage. Yet when Paul talked about marriage, he had something specific in mind. Again, would this verse be able to be used by people wanting incestual marriage? How about people wanting polygamous marriage?

Let’s move on to Sodom. Now I do think inhospitality can be included on the list of why Sodom was destroyed, but Vines is too quick to say that Bible scholars on both sides have dismissed homosexuality as the sin of Sodom. Robert Gagnon, for instance, has plenty of material on the sin of Sodom and he would certainly include homosexuality. This includes how Ezekiel uses language from the holiness code of Leviticus and the language of abomination that is used in Leviticus 20:13.

Amusingly, Vines also goes to Jude 7 and says the men were pursuing sarkos heteras which is translated as other flesh and says the problem was that they were too much pursuing flesh that was different. Gagnon questions such an interpretation of the passage and rightly points out that the men did not know that the visitors were angels. As Gagnon says

According to Jude 7 the men of Sodom “committed sexual immorality (ekporneusasai) and went after other flesh.” Jones is correct in thinking that “went after other flesh” refers to sex with the angelic visitors but fails in his assumption that “committed sexual immorality” has the same referent. Jude 7 is an instance of parataxis: two clauses conjoined by ‘and’ where one is conceptually subordinated to the other. Jones follows other homosexualist interpretations in assuming the meaning as “they committed sexual immorality by going after other flesh.” But a paratactic construction in Greek can just as easily make the first clause subordinate; in this case, “by (or: in the course of) committing sexual immorality they went after other flesh.” In other words, in the process of attempting the sexually immoral act of having intercourse with other men, the men of Sodom got more than they bargained for: committing an offense unknowingly against angels (note the echo in Heb 13:2: “do not neglect hospitality to strangers for, because of this, some have entertained angels without knowing it”). This is apparently how the earliest ‘commentator’ of Jude 7 read it. For 2 Peter 2:6-7, 10 refers to the “defiling desire/lust” of the men of Sodom. Since the men of Sodom did not know that the male visitors were angels—so not only Gen 19:4-11 but also all subsequent ancient interpreters—the reference cannot be to a lust for angels but rather must be to a lust for men. So both Jude 7 and 2 Pet 2:6-7 provide further confirmation in the history of interpretation that the Sodom narrative is correctly interpreted when one does not limit the indictment of male homosexual relations to coercive forms.

Thus, I do not find what Vines says to be convincing. Are there other sins going on in the text besides homosexuality? Yes. There definitely are. Is homosexuality a sin that is going on in the text? Yes. It definitely is.

Let’s move on to Leviticus.

Vines is right that there are many OT laws that we do not follow because they were never placed on us. However, there are plenty that we do still follow. “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus after all. Vines wants to ask how much of this still applies. He looks to Leviticus 18:19 and 20:18 which speak of sex while a woman is menstruating. However, the punishment is being cut off. The punishment for other offenses in Leviticus 20 meanwhile is death. The idea of the menstrual cycle is to give a woman rest instead of rather letting her be treated like an object. Israelites did consider uncovering blood to be shameful and that would mean more quarantine.

Vines also wants to look at what else the OT doesn’t condemn such as polygamy and concubinage and it allows for divorce. Sure, but like many other systems, we must keep in mind Leviticus was not meant to bring us Heaven on Earth nor was any of the Torah. God starts with Israel where they are. We’re even told 2 Samuel 12:7-8 would have allowed for more wives, but is that what it says?

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Israel was not to go past the bounds of the lands of Israel and Judah. Why would God then give more? Or is it saying that God was ready to bless David abundantly and all that Saul had had transferred over to David when Saul died and God would have been willing to give even more. This is not speaking about just wives but of the whole idea of more than Saul had would have belonged to David. The whole problem with Vines’s argument is he assumes that these practices are abandoned, so maybe the others. Sure. Maybe bestiality has been abandoned. Jesus and Paul say nothing about it. Maybe child sacrifice has been abandoned. Maybe incest has been abandoned. How far do we go?

Vines is right that different words are used to speak of abominations, but in the text in Leviticus, it all comes from the holiness code. It can refer to ritual uncleanliness, but it can also refer to moral wickedness and the text is quite clear with saying that whoever does this gets death. This is more than just ritual uncleanliness. Vines tries to get around the idea of the death penalty by saying we consider many punishments excessive. Perhaps we do, but this is the standard God set for the nation of Israel and it won’t work to say “This seems excessive to us, so surely it isn’t so great a sin.”

In the end, I frankly look at Vines’s statements and wonder what on Earth is being condemned in Leviticus. It’s as if we’re told that this was once worthy of death, but today it’s no big deal. In fact, today we should celebrate it. That will require a look at the New Testament. Let’s go there. Vines sees Romans 1 as the most important passage for discussion so let’s see what we make of his argument there.

Vines is of course correct that some matters are cultural. For instance, we have ended slavery, but slaves in the time were expected to serve their masters honorably and with respect. Men and women could greet one another with a holy kiss in church, but today you could get a lawsuit for that one. (Although I do try to tell my wife during greeting time that we should greet one another with a holy kiss.) The question is not “Are there cultural commands?” The question is “Is Romans 1 an example?”

I do not think so because Romans 1 also points back to Genesis 1 and 2. You have numerous tie-ins in the text. You have terminology not elsewhere used such as creator, creation, and male and female. The description of the creatures also matches the descriptions found in Genesis 1. Paul is referring back to creation. What he is saying is that idolatry is a blatant example of getting the vertical relationship wrong. In idolatry, one takes that which is the creation and treats it like the creator. In the same way for Paul, homosexuality is an example on the horizontal level. One takes the body clearly meant to be used sexually with members of the opposite sex, and instead uses it with members of the same sex. Vines instead sees it as the condemnation of excess rather than moderation of the desires.

But Paul does not allow that. Paul says the desires themselves are shameful and there is no indication that he thought only a little bit would have been okay. One would in fact wonder why if same-sex behavior was truly a good thing Paul would say to not have too much of it. We don’t see that going on with heterosexuals since in 1 Cor. 7, Paul urges us to NOT abandon the coming together of ourselves. Paul says nothing about the intentions of the act or the frequency. He says the act and the desire themselves are both wrong. Again, I find Vines just straining.

Let’s move on to 1 Cor. 6. The question is over the two words that are used. Vines wishes to say the term Malakoi refers to effeminate men, but will this stand up? Let’s look at how this holds up. The passage reads as follows:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

All of this is about sexual immorality as idolatry always carried with it a notion of sexual misbehavior. In this case, the malakoi has been used elsewhere to refer to people who allow themselves to be the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. This shows up in the writings of Soranus and Pseudo-Aristotle. Meanwhile, the next term arsenokoitai is in fact a term that comes from two words in the LXX that come from Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, the passages about homosexuality, and it is a combination of “lying” and “male”. No. This doesn’t refer to all men are liars, but to the act of sexually lying with someone. Vines wants to suggest that Paul could have in mind pederasty, but there were words specifically referring to that if Paul had wanted to say that.

Vines goes on in the book to argue further about how we should change society in light of this, but I do not find this at all convincing since his arguments are just extremely weak. Despite his idea of wanting to be open and friendly, he does cast a gauntlet down when he says on pages 161-2 that “It is the church that is sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” So apparently, Vines is making it clear. We either accept homosexuals as they are or else we are sinning.

He closes also with seeds of a modern reformation with three people who have been influential in supporting homosexual relationships, two are evangelical and one of those is an evangelical scholar. The interesting aspect is none of these stories starts with a look at Scripture by itself. It all starts with people having emotional reasons to want to embrace homosexuality, such as the first who made a good friend who was a homosexual and the evangelical having a child who was homosexual. Again, I am convinced that experience is trumping Scripture.

In conclusion, Vines puts forward a better argument than most, but one that is lacking, but he deserves to be answered. I encourage others to read Gagnon as well in response to Vines and those that he cites and I look forward to the day when there is a Vines-Gagnon debate.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Winning The Marriage Battle

Are we taking the proper steps to win the battle for marriage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have a friend who is very interested in the marriage debate. Now I watch this subject to, though it is not my main theme, and I have my own opinions on it, but I tend to try not to argue about it. Still, I am quite interested in sexual ethics because like many men, I have an interest in sex. That has only increased since I’ve got married. I see more and more every day why it is that this is so important to a marriage. I also sadly see that many marriages are ending in divorce. Now to be fair, people like Shaunti Feldhahn have made convincing arguments that the divorce rate is not as bad as we think it is, but I think she would agree that it is still bad and it is especially tragic when Christian marriages end in divorce.

Another sad aspect is some of you are hearing me talk about divorce and wondering what this has to do with the modern marriage debate.

Christians have had a time fighting for things that they want if they think that they benefit from them. Sure. We’ll fight to keep Duck Dynasty on the air. We like that show. Sure. We’ll go to support Chick-Fil-A because we like Chick-Fil-A. Now of course, I’m not saying all who participated in these events were Christians and I am not saying all Christians participated in them, but Christians no doubt made up a sizable number of the people who did that. You would think that if Christians claimed they got any benefit out of anything, that it would be marriage, and that marriage would be worth fighting for.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like it is. As soon as Christians win a battle, off they go to do their own thing and don’t carry any of the momentum to the next battle. We have our chicken sandwich and we have our TV show. Why should we trouble ourselves more? Dare I say it, but the reason the marriage debate has gone downhill on the Christian side in our time is because the Christians have not been honoring marriage like they should.

To do this, we must start with what most of us already agree with the culture on. Sex is awesome. Let’s start there.

Sex is indeed awesome, but frankly, the Christian church does not do a good job of talking about it. To this day, I remember being at a Silver Ring Thing service at a church and the associate pastor got up to talk to the teenagers there about waiting until marriage for sex. Good point. I agree. From there on, the pastor went on to talk about the topic and I was listening as a young college man.

And I was bored.

Pastor. If you are talking about sex, and a college guy is in the audience and getting bored, you are doing something wrong. I could just as easily say if anyone is getting bored, you are doing something wrong.

Here’s in fact what was said. It was said that if you have sex before marriage, you will be doing it for selfish reasons. I can agree with this. In fact, for even sex within marriage, I think we often have mixed motives. There is usually some self-interest involved with all that we do. I’d like to think that my motives are always pure when I do something nice for my wife, but I’d be lying if I said that they were. The problem was the pastor then gave us reasons to not have sex before marriage, such as getting an STD, an unplanned pregnancy, or the shame one might have on a future wedding night.

Sorry, but those sound like selfish reasons also.

There was hardly anything said about the joys of sex in marriage. Lip service was paid to it. That was all.

Excuse me, but I think the joy of sex deserves more than a quick blurb of lip service.

One would especially think the men among us would be wanting to celebrate this just as much. Of course, we all know that it takes two to tango, so I would advise women to keep in mind that if you want your husband to celebrate your marriage, it’s good to make sure that he knows that you are celebrating him. Please a man here and chances are you will find he is bending over backwards more often than not to make you happy. Men are really very easy to please.

Unfortunately, the world looks at what they see in movies and TV and says “It looks like this way of sex is a lot more fun.” On the face of it, one can understand it. You have variety and you don’t have to rely on one person forever and you can have whole new experiences. Marriage often is depicted in negative terms and from that point on, you’re stuck with just one person for life so you’d better make the most of it and if that person doesn’t want to do anything with you, you’re sunk.

If we are going to show the reality, we will have to show that sex in marriage is the greatest path to joy in reality.

For starters, we need more sermons in churches on sex. Once a year is not cutting it because the world is getting its message out there every day and it’s accepted as the norm. Even in the church, you can find people who are living together before marriage and engaging in pre-marital sex and it’s seen as acceptable. They’ve fully received the message of the world. What we want to show is that a sexual relationship built on a promise of mutual trust and continuously learning about how to love one person is far better than anything else. It is better to dive into the ocean of one instead of the many shallow pools of many. It is better to be in a relationship where trust is the foundation and there is already acceptance rather than earning it.

For instance, too often in cohabitation, it can be a test for marriage. Each person thinks they have to measure up in order to get a lifelong commitment. Our old adage is that you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. That sounds reasonable. It does until you ask one question.

Which person is the driver and which person is the car?

You see, if you take a car for a spin and it doesn’t please you enough, you take it back to the lot. The car does not have hurt feelings. The car does not feel unworthy. The car doesn’t care one way or another. A person is not like that. This is especially so with women who are really the ones making themselves the most vulnerable. They are the ones who are the most emotionally connected on average to the sex act.

Do you really think it’s proper to treat a person like a car? If you enter the sexual relationship that nervous thinking you’re being tested, you really aren’t going to be doing your best. In fact, most couples would tell you that even if you do wait, which you should, your first time is not going to be the best time you’ve ever had. Why should it be? It should be a memorable and special time, but it won’t be the best. You’re just learning. You’re just now starting to get used to how each other’s bodies work and just starting to explore them for the first time. Things can be good, but you should expect that they will get better.

And with trust, you know there is no pressure. This person is not going to reject you. Honor marriage right and you’ll know they won’t because they have a covenant. When I meet couples who are struggling in their marriage, I tend to talk to the guys because it’s much easier for me to counsel a fellow man. I always point them to the covenant. You made a lifelong promise to that woman when you married her. You are to honor it.

Do you get one person? Yes. That is a person you know will be there. You don’t have to go to sleep wondering if the person will still be there when you wake up. You don’t have to be worried about the sexual history of that person. It is someone you know. Love builds up sex and sex builds up love. It is a beautiful circle and it extends in marriage. Your marriage will build up your sex life if you do it right and if you do your sex life right, it will build up your marriage. This is a circle where you two keep blessing and celebrating one another and things get better and better.

And then, marriage is the ultimate place for when children come along. Should you have a child, the child is in an environment built on love where there is a mother and a father waiting. It does not have to be a disaster if a woman gets pregnant. It can instead be something to celebrate. The love you two share can then be passed on so the child can grow up in love. While the love you and your spouse have is sexual, you can be sure that if that love is consistently being shared, that love will pour out and reach beyond itself. Ladies. For the most part, if you want to fill up your husband’s love tank, there is never a return receipt on sex. Your husband will be overflowing if you are consistent. Remember that it is said that just like pizza, bad sex is good sex. You won’t go wrong affirming a man like this.

Why does this matter? Because the ultimate way to win the marriage battle is for us to celebrate our marriages ourselves. The world should be looking at the Christian church with envy wondering how it is we have such good sex lives. It should not be something we’re hesitant to talk about. Of course, some matters should be private, but that you have joy in your marriage should not be private. That should be something worth sharing and let the rest of the world draw its own conclusions about why the two of you are so happy.

Also, this is not to say sex is the only important part of marriage. It certainly is not, but it is an important part and one the Bible speaks about often, which means we should speak about it often as well. Those wanting good sex should also be doing as much as they can good in a marriage and again, like the circle, good sex will help make that easier. When we find that marriage is something worth honoring for ourselves, we’ll give the rest of the world reason to honor it as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Redeeming Sex

What do I think of Debra Hirsch’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Okay. It’s not much of a secret that men like sex and like to think about it. Well, maybe that last part isn’t as true. Men like to fantasize about sex. They like to dream about sex. They especially like to have sex. Not many of them enjoy really thinking about sex. I try to be different, although I certainly enjoy all the other activities, and so when I saw Hirsch’s book on sexuality, I decided to pick it up. Not only that, it’s often good to get a woman’s perspective on sex. Not only that, but it’s good to get the view of a Christian woman on sex.

Hirsch’s book details how she came to Jesus and she came from a lifestyle that had practically done everything sexual that you can imagine, and then some. Today, she says she has a more traditional stance, but when she became a Christian, she had a lot of questions about what the church had to say about sex. That shouldn’t be a shock since so many of us today have the same questions, both inside and outside of the church. Thankfully, Hirsch found a church that while they consisted largely of senior citizens while she and her friends were young rebel types, they loved her with the love of Jesus and the pastor made sure to get them to Jesus first and then let Him be the guiding light in their sexual issues.

So right at the start, I’d like to point out a problem we have in our churches. How often do we talk about sex? I mean really, how often in church do you hear talk about sex? It’s hardly ever. We barely say a thing and when we do, we tend to speak in euphemisms and if it’s some forbidden dirty topic. How often does sex meanwhile show up in the Bible? Abundantly. How much does it show up in the popular culture? Try to turn on the television and not see it! How often are we talking about it in politics? You seen all the debates going on on the nature of marriage? What are we saying about it? Squat.

Hirsch wants to have a real conversation about it and it goes beyond the “Don’t do this” that we hear over and over. It’s really about how we relate to one another. Hirsch says all of our relationships are really sexual to some extent. Of course, some of us are hearing that and thinking “What?! There are several people I don’t have sex with and I don’t have any desire to have sex with!” Hirsch would agree with you. What Hirsch means is that all relationships are to have some degree of intimacy. All involve some sharing of yourself. There is just one relationship for a Christian that is to involve genital sexuality and that is the one that takes place in marriage.

This kind of intimacy is what we all long for on some extent and even those who take a vow of celibacy are longing for it. They long for it with God, which is ultimately what Heaven is. (You know Hirsch’s book is going to be good when the first title is “Oh my God!”) The moment of release that all of genital sexuality is building up to is meant to be seen as a moment of unity and oneness. It is the end result of a final openness to one another, and it is a picture of what Heaven is like. So many in our society chase after that moment and those of us who are married when it comes to sex can suddenly find ourselves being obsessed when the possibility comes up. Personally, I’d consider it the closest one comes to having another personality. It really is reaching for something greater than yourself and getting caught in the experience of another person.

That’s what Heaven is also.

Heaven is not defined by streets of gold or by having a mansion or by playing a harp and sitting on a cloud. (especially since we don’t become angels, but that’s another point.) Heaven is defined by being in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Heaven is found by dying to ourselves and giving our lives to Him. Heaven is found by having total and exclusive openness to God and being open to all of His blessings in our lives. Heaven is standing before God naked in our being as it were with no secrets and Him making us to be who we are and giving His life to us.

Which is kind of what sex is entirely. Sex is the symbol that is meant to point us to the reality of God.

The sad thing is we can rob people of this when we tell them sex is something to be feared. Our culture wants to run to sex. We want to run from sex. In reality, Christians should be leading in the best sex that there is. Our God is the one who created sex. It’s all His idea. His pathway should be seen as the best pathway to the best sex that there is. The rest of the world should be looking at the church and saying “I don’t know what they have, but I sure want it.” Should they want us in our holiness and love? Absolutely, but that should also carry over into our sex lives that should be an example to the world.

Hirsch rightly quotes Chesterton who told us that when a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he is looking for God. I wholeheartedly agree. Our chasing after sex is a chasing after intimacy and being accepted and joy and openness. We just too often go to the wrong spot. We spend so much time with the symbol that we miss the far greater reality that sex is pointing to. We stop at the symbol talking about how good it is, and indeed it is, that we don’t realize we’re getting a foretaste. Is sex really just a happy accident in a cosmic meaningless universe, or is it a pointer to something beyond itself?

Also, Hirsch wants us to look to Jesus as our example. Jesus is indeed a sexual person. No. I don’t mean any nonsense like He had a romantic interest in Mary Magdalene or that He was having sex of any kind. I mean that everything He did, He did as a man. In fact, He also did this as a single man, which should be a reminder as Hirsch points out to those of us who can be tempted in the church to look down on singles as if there is something wrong with them because they do not have a spouse. Some of them might want one, and we can help, but some might just not want to get married, and that’s also okay. How can it be a wrong path to choose if Jesus chose it?

The sexual love that we want we often want cheaply, and this can be through promiscuous sex and through pornography. Real sexuality involves real intimacy. It involves being open to the other person entirely, which means you are capable of being hurt. Marriage is one of the most sacred institutions that there is, and it is also one of the most dangerous and risky ones to enter into. When you enter into marriage, you are tying your life to another person and saying that you are open to them. That entails opening yourself up to their love, which is good, but it also entails that you will get hurt from time to time. That’s part of the risk. I have to realize that sadly, I will hurt my wife from time to time. It’s a sad reality. I am a fallen sinful man and sometimes that flesh will come out. That’s part of marriage though. You are open to the hurt because the love you gain is so much greater.

The last half of the book focuses a lot on issues involving homosexuality. Hirsch makes a lot of good points here, though some will be a bit concerned wishing she took a stronger stance at times. Hirsch is certainly right that we have too often given the image of hate-filled and intolerant. Many of us do not, but sadly, the ones that usually get the microphone from the media are the ones we don’t want. Now in all of this, I will state definitely that I think homosexual actions are wrong. I think that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. At the same time, I do not have hatred for homosexuals and too often that is assumed. We have often treated homosexuality as if it’s a disease keeping people away from Jesus. For those of us who do disagree with homosexual practice, we need to realize still that the first way to love our homosexual neighbor, is to get them to Jesus, just like anyone else.

We also too often make a dangerous statement about God removing homosexual desires from someone if they come to Jesus. I’ve heard people say from the pulpit that Jesus will do that if you come to Him and you struggle with them. He could of course. He very well could. This is not a guarantee. As a heterosexual man, Jesus does not take away all my desires to sleep with other women, or take away all of my sinful desires specifically. There are many sins of the flesh that I still struggle with it. Why would we think that Jesus would take away the sinful desires of someone in the homosexual lifestyle and not do the same for someone in the heterosexual lifestyle? I still have my cross that I have to carry.

The first thing we have to do is to learn the person in the LGBT community as a fellow human being even if we disagree with their lifestyle to the core. I often tell men who are wanting to witness to male homosexuals is that the best thing to do is just to be a friend to them. I’m sure they’ve heard enough times what the church thinks about what they do. You don’t have to for a moment affirm what they do, but you do realize that they are human beings that Jesus loves and died for as well. Dare I say it, but maybe you should consider treating them the way you want to be treated? Of course, if they ask your opinion, that doesn’t mean you give a false opinion. If they ask you if you think they are doing something immoral, you can say that, but you yourself are also doing things you know are immoral and you are still to love yourself.

Ultimately, I think Hirsch’s book is quite good. I don’t agree with everything naturally. I don’t think the story of Origen emasculating himself is accurate for instance. The story shows up about a century later and Origen himself was someone who normally interpreted Scripture allegorically. Still, no essential point resides on such a claim. Also, while I do wish sometimes a stronger stance had been taken, I try to realize that Hirsch is trying to walk a very fine line here. There is much that is good in this book and there are plenty of parts I circled and underlined in my reading. I hope it opens us up more to a real conversation on sex and sexuality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters